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November 13, 1999
'Southern Baptists Shouldn't Throw Stones'
R S Shankar
The Southern Baptists may want to do something about their own families before setting out to provide Christian enlightenment to 900 million Hindus.
For, recently issued statistics show that no region of America has a higher divorce rate than the Bible Belt, where the Southern Baptists are dominant.
The states of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama are among those with the highest rate of divorce.
"When the Baptists issued their infamous Prayer Book, one of my first thoughts was why were they worried about Hindus, Jews and Muslims when there are millions of Christians they could save," said Navneet Bajwa.
According to an Associated Press report, in a country where nearly half of all marriages break up, the divorce rates in the conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average.
Across America, there were about 4.2 divorces for every thousand people in 1998, according to federal figures. The rate was 8.5 per thousand in Nevada, 6.4 in Tennessee, 6.1 in Arkansas, 6 in Alabama and Oklahoma, but less than 3 in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. Of all southeastern states, only South Carolina's rate of 3.8 was below the national average.
Several religious leaders and sociologists believe that many people in the south and midwest marry at a younger age than in many states and their rigid lifestyle makes their marriage flounder.
"The Southern Baptists and other churches ought to learn from how Indian Americans keep their marriages intact," says Bajwa.
Bajwa's feelings are echoed by many Indian Americans who say they are perplexed by those who, instead of putting their own houses in order, rush to condemn those whose family traditions are really strong.
"The Southern Baptists never seem to have learned from the scriptural injunction about not throwing stones at others," says Dhiren Shah, an Atlanta businessman.
"You do not need more than a little common sense to realize that you should not throw stones at others especially when you are in a glass house," he says, "and when others are not at fault."
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